2017 NFL Draft, Oakland Raiders: Top needs, suggested picks, current outlook

2017 NFL Draft Reset: Raiders focus on roster amid franchise move
By Frank Cooney, NFLDraftScout.com  |  April 7, 2017 at 2:09 PM
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Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio insists he and general manager Reggie McKenzie are working their plan so diligently that even news of a move to Las Vegas did not change the process.

Not that Del Rio didn't have some conflicting feelings with the news that the Raiders, by a 31-1 vote of NFL owners, were granted permission to relocate to Las Vegas and vacate their home of the past 22 years and for 45 of their 58 years of existence.

Del Rio grew up in nearby Hayward a Raiders fan, and getting the job to become head coach in 2016 was a homecoming. The Raiders will play 2017 in Oakland, and perhaps 2018 and 2019 as well, although plans could change for those seasons based on the reception they get from the home fans.

The Raiders, 12-4 in 2016, made the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The season came crashing down during a Week 16 win over Indianapolis when quarterback Derek Carr went out with a broken right fibula. Losses to Denver in the regular-season finale and Houston in a wild-card game followed, dashing Super Bowl dreams.

Carr will be fine; Del Rio said he'll have no limitations when the offseason program begins on April 17 and organized team activities a month later.

So the offseason for the Raiders will be to find a way to upgrade the NFL's 26th-ranked defense while sustaining their offensive production.

But instead of going that way in free agency, the Raiders instead added four offensive players in tight end Jared Cook, wide receiver/return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson, tackle Marshall Newhouse and reserve quarterback EJ Manuel, before bringing in their first defender in outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins (Miami).

The only one of their own free agents to come back was long snapper Jon Condo. Everyone else walked, including leading rusher Latavius Murray, who signed with the Vikings.

The Raiders waited for the first wave to pass in free agency, unlike the two previous years when big-ticket strikes included center Rodney Hudson, defensive tackle Dan Williams, guard Kelechi Osemele, linebacker Bruce Irvin and cornerback Sean Smith.

Big the first week of April was a visit from home-grown running back Marshawn Lynch, of Beast Mode fame with the Seattle Seahawks. Lynch retired last year but said he might unretire to play for the Raiders -- and only the Raiders. Under terms of his existing contract, Lynch would be in line for a $9 million salary and cap hit in 2017, and he would be due a base salary of $7 million in 2018 and could potentially earn an additional $3 million roster bonus. Seahawks general manager John Schneider said an agreement between the two teams won't be an issue, noting he formerly worked with McKenzie when both were with the Packers.

Here is a closer look at where the Raiders are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft, at No.24 overall.

THE BREAKDOWN

2016 finish: T-1st AFC West (12-4)

STATISTICS

TOTAL OFFENSE: 373.3 (6th)

RUSHING: 120.1 (6th)

PASSING: 253.2 (13th)

TOTAL DEFENSE: 375.1 (26th)

RUSHING: 117.6 (23rd)

PASSING: 257.5 (24th)

TEAM NEEDS

1. Running back: With Latavius Murray signing with Minnesota in free agency, the Raiders need a power back to go along with second-year players Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, both of whom had exciting first seasons as complementary players. Both are 5-foot-8 and not likely to be first-and-10 runners.

2. Inside linebacker: Malcolm Smith, who played inside and outside, signed with the 49ers, and Perry Riley Jr. remains unsigned. The Raiders had Zach Brown in for a visit (he signed with Washington) and would hope to find a player with enough agility and athleticism to avoid being a liability in coverage as well as having the ability to stop inside runs.

3. Cornerback: Rangy starters David Amerson and Sean Smith man the outside and are hoping for better seasons after being inconsistent in 2016. What the Raiders need, however, is a quick-footed corner, smaller, who can guard slot receivers and help with crossing routes and short patterns.

KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 6)

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

LS Jon Condo: UFA; $1.08M/1 yr, $50K SB/$300K guaranteed.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

TE Jared Cook: UFA Packers; $10.6M/2 yrs, $2.5M RB/$5M guaranteed.

LB Jelani Jenkins: UFA Dolphins; $1M/1 yr, $100 SB.

QB EJ Manuel: UFA Bills; $800K/1 yr.

T Marshall Newhouse: UFA Giants; $3.5M/2 yrs, $500K guaranteed (RB 3/20).

WR-KR Cordarrelle Patterson: UFA Vikings; $8.5M/2 yrs, $2.5M SB/$5M guaranteed.

PLAYERS LOST

S Nate Allen: UFA Dolphins; $3.4M/1 yr, $2M SB/$3.4M guaranteed.

LB Daren Bates: UFA Titans; $6M/3 yrs, $500K SB/$1M guaranteed.

CB DJ Hayden: UFA Lions; $3.75M/1 yr, $1M SB/$2.25M guaranteed.

WR Andre Holmes: UFA Bills; $5.15M/3 yrs, $1.65M SB/$2.45M guaranteed.

DT Stacy McGee: UFA Redskins; $25M/5 yrs, $4M SB/$9M guaranteed, $2.75M injury only at time of signing.

RB Latavius Murray: UFA Vikings; $15M/3 yrs, $1.8M SB/$8.55M guaranteed, $5.15M injury only at time of signing.

TE Mychal Rivera: UFA Jaguars; $3.25M/2 yrs, $750M guaranteed.

LB Malcolm Smith: UFA 49ers; $26.5M/5 yrs, $7M SB/$13M guaranteed, $1.5M injury only at time of signing.

S Brynden Trawick: UFA Titans; $4.75M/2 yrs, $3M guaranteed.

T Menelik Watson: UFA Broncos; $18.37M/3 yrs, $4M SB/$11M guaranteed, $5.5M injury only at time of signing.

MOCK DRAFT

NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 24 overall)

Rob Rang:

Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State. The Raiders' rise to the playoffs is directly attributable to its explosive offense, but if the club is to take the next step - and remain a consistent post-season threat - help must be on the way for a defense that surrendered an average of 375 yards per game, 26th in the NFL. In his post-season wrapup, head coach Jack Del Rio stressed the need to create more disruption on the interior, which is exactly what the 6-foot-5, 285-pound McDowell does best.

Dane Brugler:

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State. Running back isn't the No. 1 need on the roster, but if Oakland is one of the several teams who have Cook rated as the top back, the value would make sense. No offense to DeAndre Washington or Jalen Richard, but unless Marshawn Lynch comes out of retirement, Cook would be the best back on the roster immediately.

Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?

Based on the team's current status, there are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate check out NFLDraftScout.com's full mocks and ratings.

--Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. TSX team insiders contributed to this article.

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